Monday’s coronavirus pandemic in New York City saw classroom doors open for approximately a million students in public schools.
The school year begins with important milestones in the city’s pandemic recovery. These milestones are dependent on vaccine mandates.
Nearly all of the city’s 300,000 employees will be required to be back in their workplaces, in person, Monday as the city ends remote work. To remain at their jobs, most will need to be vaccinated or have weekly COVID-19 testing.
The city was also set to start enforcing rules requiring workers and patrons to be vaccinated to go indoors at restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment venues. Although the vaccination requirement is in place since weeks, it was not enforced before.
There will also be a vaccine mandate — with no test-out option — for teachers, though they have been given until Sept. 27 to get their first shot.
Unlike some school districts across the country that are still offering online instruction to families that prefer it, New York City officials say there will be no remote option despite the persistence of the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19.
New York City schools were open during the last school year. Some students received in-person and remote instruction, but most families preferred all-remote learning. Mayor Bill de Blasio insists that this option will not be available.
The mayor stated that “our children need to be in school” and it was unbelievable that some kids hadn’t seen a classroom for over a year. There are huge consequences, including for health care. School is the best and most healthy place for children to be.
All students and staff will need masks, just as in schools throughout New York.
Students 12 years and older are not eligible for vaccines. However, they will need to be vaccinated in order to play contact sports such as basketball and football. They also have to be vaccinated for extracurricular activities like theater and band practice. Two-thirds (12-17) of city residents are currently vaccinated.
Anyone 12 years old or older in the United States is eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief said last week he is hopeful children as young as 5 will be eligible to get vaccinated by the end of 2021.
De Blasio is a Democrat who was elected to his last months of office. He insists that school buildings are safe by using cleaning protocols, masks and random COVID-19 testing. He has faced opposition from both parents who want their children to return home and teachers’ unions.
WNYC received a call Friday from a caller who said that she was “absolutely terrified” of sending her 6-year-old daughter to school.
De Blasio replied, “We believe that this is an extraordinarily secure environment.” “We have proven it, and the most important thing here is that our children must return.”
De Blasio responded to a question about whether some students could disappear because virus-wary parents don’t send their children to school.
The United Federation of Teachers represented almost 80,000 teachers in the city’s public schools. They are currently in arbitration over accommodations for teachers with health problems that prevent them from getting vaccinated.
The arbitrator ruled late Friday that the city must offer non-classroom assignments to teachers who aren’t vaccinated because of medical and religious exemptions.
In a news release, UFT president Michael Mulgrew stated that teachers had overwhelmingly supported the vaccine. However, there are members who have medical conditions or other reasons to decline vaccination.
Other unions representing city workers objected to the mayor’s decision to send employees back to their workplaces. They claimed that if they were doing well remotely, they should be permitted to continue working.
The Municipal Labor Committee is a umbrella group of unions representing municipal workers and has threatened legal action if the mayor attempts to end weekly virus testing for those who choose not to be vaccinated.
A group of restaurant and bar owners sued the city for violating its legal authority over indoor dining requirements and the immunization requirement for employees.